If you’re feeling lost, stagnant, confused about where you’re going next – this blog is written with you in mind.
A really common conversation I’ve been having with people lately is that many of us are in seasons of waiting. A stage of sewing seeds and figuring out our next steps, a period of not really knowing how to answer questions about your future or have a clue where you’ll be a year from now. Even though we’re all on different paths I feel like it’s a shared feeling among my peers – and maybe you’ll relate too.
Ironically in seasons of waiting, when it seems as though others are quickly passing by, things can feel stagnant and slow going in our everyday lives. Transitioning from the pace and regular changes of school life can make time feel like it’s dragging on.
In these times when your answer to “what’s new?” is not much, it’s easy to feel like we’re falling behind and stuck. And how overwhelming is it to feel both stuck and like life is passing you by?
No worries though – I have a strategy to share that has helped me deal with stagnant feelings, learn to feel at peace with much of my future being up in the air, and how to tackles the question what do you want to do next?
A few months ago I was I was feeling stuck. I was back home from Florida adventures, had a steady job, and felt both restless and unsure about my next steps. I was craving stability in a multitude of area in my life this year and have felt like so many things are just so up in the air. I was confident about 6 months of plans for myself and then everything past that felt so far away and blurry. All my goals seemed so far away and out of my control – which in turn made my everyday life seem like it wasn’t shaping my future.
However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Our habits, our small goals, and our intentions influence who we are becoming – so our small steps can have a big impact.
My counsellor suggested making a small tangible goal, like signing up to run a 5K and to simply focus on training for that. I took her advice a step further, I didn’t just want a single goal to work toward. I created a list of goals for six months, a year, two years, five years and even ten years down the road.
To be completely honest and realistic, they are flexible and many are wild guesses. A lot of the distant ones are mostly travel destinations because I don’t know if I’ll have a masters degree or be married in five years but I feel very confident in my ability to buy plane tickets to Spain or Utah.
The goals I made ranged from finances and savings to friendships I want to intentionally invest in, to creative and professional goals. Places that are at the top of my world travel list also appeared less as a concrete plan and more of a possible dream. Through this exercise I found that setting goals empowers you to think about what you want to accomplish in your life and what you want your priorities to be.
I gave myself the space to decide what I wanted to focus on and to make sure that my values were reflected in my goals.
It might sound daunting to try to imagine what you want your life to look like in ten years, so many of us just have no idea where we’re going or what life holds for us. Most of my friends said this activity it seemed more overwhelming than helpful. However, I found actually sitting down and articulating clear goals with realistic timelines gave me permission to feel like the pace I’m going is okay. Life isn’t rushing past us and we’re on the way to achieving our dreams. Just because you haven’t gotten there yet doesn’t mean you’re not on the way.
You can set a goal and not feel pressure to immediately reach it. It’s okay to be a work in progress. You’re headed in the right direction you want to and that’s exciting! Avoid letting life happen to you. Intentions and resolutions don’t need to be life changing to be life shaping.
The big question then isn’t the million dollar “what’s next for you?” but for you to ask yourself “what do I want to achieve in my life and what goals can I set to work towards that?”
I believe that contentment comes from figuring out what you want rather than striving for what everybody else around you is doing. I’m not saying all the goals you set should build up to one thing – some of my short term ones included regularly tithing to my church, investing in specific relationships, getting a drastic haircut, trying my hand at freelance writing and painting my room grey. Some of the less immediate goals included learning french (like actually) running a 5K, seeing long distance friends, lots of travel, watercolor painting more often, applying to grad school, getting married and writing a book. But those are the things I want – so what do you want?
Articulating your goals and thinking about what you want to achieve is the first step to make things happen.
My best advice for successful goal setting is making sure your goals have timelines, which is one of the qualities of a S. M. A. R. T. goal. I have found that it helps you have a perspective to see that you are making progress even if it doesn’t feel like it.
You might be in a hard season and feeling stick for a few weeks can make it feel like you’ll be stuck forever – but that’s not true. Zooming out to imagine life in six months or a year is a reminder to keep working toward who we want to grow into.
Stay in the present and do what you can now to blaze your own trail and find fulfilment in each day and each small goal you accomplish. In the words of my current favourite poet Cleo Wade, “Create your own finish lines. Let there be as many as you want, and let there be many.”